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Spiced Pear Upside-Down Cake

The intense flavor of cloves is best when used in small amounts. In this recipe, just a touch of cloves complements the other more mellow spices as well as the brown sugar and maple syrup. As they bake, the sliced pears release sweet juices that mingle with the aromatic spices and soak into the rich, buttery cake.

Ingredients:

  • 12 Tbs. (1 1/2 sticks) plus 5 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing
  • 2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs. maple syrup
  • 2 ripe pears, preferably Bartlett or Anjou, peeled, halved and cored
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan.

In a bowl, using a wooden spoon, vigorously beat together the 5 Tbs. butter, the brown sugar and maple syrup until thoroughly blended. Spread this mixture over the bottom of the prepared cake pan.

Cut the pear halves into 1/4-inch slices and place in a bowl. Sprinkle with the 1 Tbs. granulated sugar, the cinnamon, cardamom and cloves and stir gently to coat. Arrange the pears in the bottom of the pan, fanning and overlapping them slightly, so that the tapered ends point outward; use the small slices to fill any holes.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Pour the milk and vanilla into a liquid measuring cup.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat together the remaining 12 Tbs. butter and the 3/4 cup granulated sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the milk mixture and beginning and ending with the flour. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat for 2 minutes.

Scrape the batter into the cake pan and spread evenly over the pears. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 60 to 70 minutes.

Immediately place a large plate, at least 10 inches in diameter, upside down on top of the cake. Carefully invert the cake with the plate, then lift off the pan, gently shaking the pan if necessary to release the cake. Let cool for at least 30 minutes, then cut into wedges and serve. Serves 8.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Desserts, by Raquel Pelzel (Oxmoor House, 2008).